How to Choose Hair Dye

Even during the best of times it can be quite costly to have your hair professionally colored at a salon so many women (and men!) choose to dye their own hair at home. Unfortunately, one of the things that people don’t realize is that you are not only paying for the color and the service, but for their expertise in the field as well. Coloring hair is an art form that is learned through both education and years of practice. However, there are ways to learn the basics so that you can safely color your hair at home if you understand some of the most elementary principles.

Get It Straight!

Everyone has a pet peeve, and one of the most dreaded things a cosmetologist can hear is “I want to dye my hair blonde.” Unless your hair is already blonde, there is no such thing as dying it blonde! If your hair is medium to dark brown you would first need to lift color before ‘dying’ it any shade of blonde. The correct thing to say is “I would like to bleach my hair blonde,” or “I need my hair lifted to blonde.” Some dyes, depending on the peroxide volume, can lift the hair a few shades, but certainly not enough to go blonde if you don’t already have light hair or hair that has been previously lifted.

Not All Peroxide Is Created Equal

Speaking of peroxide, one of the things to be aware of is that certain types of hair and certain hair dye products use a different volume of peroxide. Generally speaking, most hair colors use 20 volume peroxide for deposit and perhaps a bit of lift. Some hair dyes that can lift the hair a few shades are packaged with 40 volume peroxide while hair dye for grey hair is either 10 volume and can even be diluted to 5 volume if need be, though that is not the norm. When hair dye contains peroxide it is usually thought of as a permanent or semi permanent color. Non peroxide hair dyes (temporary and semi permanent) tend to wash out is six to eight washings for the most part.

Understanding the Color Wheel

Then there is the color wheel to consider! One of the first things a cosmetologist learns in theory is the chemistry of color. Have you ever seen someone with orange hair that should have been red or green hair that should have been ash perhaps? In order to achieve the color you are looking for you need to have a basic understanding of how colors balance each other out. While you aren’t expected to memorize all the colors in the color wheel a beautician goes by, you should at least understand that it is broken down into primary, secondary and tertiary colors. There are three primary colors on the wheel which are red, blue and yellow. The same holds true for the secondary layer but those colors are green, orange and purple. What you need to know is that if your hair comes out the wrong color you can ‘correct’ it by adding the color that neutralizes it. Or simply put, the following colors neutralize each other.

  • Yellow – Purple
  • Red – Green
  • Blue – Orange

Therefore, a beautician would know that a person looking for ash (green tones, but NOT green) hair would need to add a touch of red to the dye to neutralize the green and the person with orange hair should have chosen a color with a bit more blue. Because the of the actual chemistry of color, you should ALWAYS do a swatch test on a strand of hair beneath the surface to see if you will achieve the color you are looking for. If not, refer to the color wheel and choose another dye with a bit more of the opposite color!

Where to Buy Hair Dye

While it is possible to go to a beauty supply store that is open to the public to purchase color and developers (generally peroxide) separately, if you are not a trained cosmetologist it would be advisable to settle for pre-packaged colors. The instructions on the box usually tell you how much lift or how much deposit you can expect based on your current color and texture. All the ‘thinking’ is done for you! However, if you still want to try to mix your own colors to achieve a shade or tone you can’t get in a box, it would be in your best interest to either talk to the salesperson, do a little online research on hair color combining or simply give it up and go to a professional.

Within the past few decades they have introduced a lot of great OTC products on the market that you can buy to color your hair. Most often you will end up with the color you are looking for if you take the time to read the box. Just remember to do you swatch test and pick up a really good conditioner for use after you have dyed your hair. No matter how good the product, chemicals do tend to dry out your hair and you will want to prevent damaged, brittle, split ends. Once you understand how to get the color you want you really can save a ton of money by coloring your own hair!

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